Over the past couple of weeks on writers' forums and email lists, I've come across several questions about self-publishing. So here's a few thoughts about the things people ask:
If I self-publish my book, does that count as being published?
Depends what you mean. If you're thinking of your approach to agents and publishers with subsequent work, it probably doesn't count for very much at all. There's a lot of self-published trash out there and having your previous book in the pile doesn't earn you many points. So simply to say that you are a self-published author says only that you paid for some printing. Like Jimmy the plumber who paid for a stack of letterheads and brochures. If you can say that you sold 5,000 copies of your book, well that says something very different. Sell only 20, though - it's probably best to keep quiet about that.
If you are planning on entering any competitions for unpublished first-timers, a go-it-alone job with an ISBN will probably disqualify you. Even if you didn't manage to sell those 20 copies.
Is there a danger that I'll be ripped off?
I guess that's a danger wherever you go and whatever you do. But I can't see that there is very much of a threat that someone is going to steal the book of an unknown wannabe author, pass it off as their own and make a fortune out of it. While you are struggling to sell your 20 copies. When you topple J. K. Rowling off her perch, on the other hand, there will be the danger that some devious little blank at your publisher's office will nick your manuscript and pre-empt your launch date with a boot-legged version from China.
Will I self-publish my own stuff?
Not sure. A while ago I seriously planned to do that with Bunderlin, but for the moment I've changed my mind. I guess I've got back a bit more confidence. I've had some encouragement from a couple of publishing professionals. And I've been short-listed in a couple of competitions. So I'm all set to take the latest, much improved version around the agents and publishers.